A horrible third-period turnover by Mackenzie Blackwood allowed the Capitals to force overtime, but Washington's overtime woes continued in a 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
Here are some observations from the game.
Just when you thought the Caps were getting healthy, there was more lineup shuffling prior to the game. The Capitals have dealt with injuries and COVID this season. Now apparently it is a non-COVID illness spreading through the team and that kept Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie out of the lineup.
Justin Schultz, Daniel Sprong and Nick Jensen were all activated off of COVID protocol and Mike Sgarbossa was activated off the taxi squad. Lucas Johansen, meanwhile, was reassigned to the taxi squad and Aliaksei Protas was reassigned to the Hershey Bears.
You got all that?
With Backstrom out, Washington has only played one game this season with all four of its centers in the lineup.
A brutal giveaway
Goalie Mackenzie Blackwood was strong in net all day and was handed a 3-1 lead to protect in the third, but his late gaffe will be the lasting moment of this game.
Nic Dowd scored a gorgeous goal, tapping the puck out of mid-air to make it 3-2. Less than three minutes later, a dumbed puck went on net and Blackwood stopped it, then appeared to hesitate with the puck and passed it right to Lars Eller. Eller then passed to Conor Sheary for the game-tying goal. The crowd was elated, but it was an absolutely brutal moment for Blackwood.
The decisive 1:14
Yegor Sharangovic struck first when he scored on a rebound. Ilya Samsonov could not handle a shot from Jack Hughes and Sharangovich got to the loose puck first to hit it home. Damon Severson struck soon after. Dawson Mercer chased down a loose puck near the wall on the red line and fired a great cross-ice pass that somehow found Severson in the faceoff circle and he hit it into the open net.
The time of each goal was 7:15 and 8:29. Just like that, the game completely turned in New Jersey's favor in just 1:14.
Samsonov improves as game goes on
Ilya Samsonov got his third consecutive start. It was not a great start as he allowed three goals in 14 shots, but he shut the door after that and really kept Washington in it.
Already up 3-1, the Devils outshot the Caps 12-5 in the second period, but after the Hischier goal, Samsonov shut the door.
After giving up three goals in 14 shots, Samsonov rebounded for 21 saves on the next 23 shots. In the second period, Samsonov was able to deny Sharangovich with the pad on a 2-on-0. Midway through the third, Jesper Boqvist found himself open behind the defense, but his wrister was turned aside by the pad of Samsonov as well. Those were two huge saves that kept the Caps alive and allowed them to rally in the third and force overtime.
Overtime woes continue
With the loss, the Caps are now 0-7 in overtime. They do not have a single win in games decided in OT, but have managed a 2-1 record in the shootout.
Washington really struggled defensively in this one. The lineup shuffled again with the return of Jensen and Schultz, but the team struggled to find defensive cohesion and the Devils took advantage. A youg, fast New Jersey team used its speed to generate odd-man rushes and get in behind the defense frequently for a number of high-danger shot opportunities. The Devils were credited with nine high-danger chances for the game.
The power play is not fixed just yet
In the month of December, Washington went 2-for-28 on the power play, good for 7.1%. That ranks 31sts in the NHL. Both of those goals were scored by Alex Ovechkin.
If you expected the floodgates to open on the power play Ovechkin's record-setting goal on Friday, that was not how things played out. Washington had only one power play opportunity Sunday, but with Backstrom and Oshie out, the unit continued its struggles and failed to score, generating only one shot on goal.